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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Sarah Sultani and Katia Stuart-Gagnon. They are members of the organizing collective that is bringing the World Social Forum — the largest gathering of civil society and social movements on the planet — to Montreal from August 9 to 14, 2016.
The World Social Forum has been taking place on an almost annual basis since 2001. With roots in the Latin American social movement tradition of encuentro, or encounter, it began as a deliberate counter-event to the annual World Economic Forum, a meeting of political and business elites held in Davos, Switzerland. The World Social Forum was first held in the city of Porto Allegre, Brazil, and over the last decade and a half has been held in a range of cities across the Global South.
The organizers of this year’s forum are expecting between 50,000 and 80,000 people to make their way to Montreal this August. These attendees will be able to participate in 1,500 separate self-managed activities, from conferences to workshops, from debates to cultural events. Representatives of more than 5000 organizations from around Quebec and around the world will be involved in helping make the event happen.
There are a number of features that make this iteration of the WSF unique. It is, for one thing, the first to be held in a country of the Global North. As well, the Montreal forum is experimenting with a number of new approaches. Unlike all of its predecessors, the organizing is not being driven by one or a group of large, funded non-governmental organizations, but rather by a grassroots collective comprised of individual activists that is doing its best to be exhaustively transparent in its processes, budgeting, and decisions. Rather than orienting the event towards producing some sort of final overall statement, the organizers are concentrating on using both the event and the process of organizing it to bring people and groups together in ways that they hope will go farther than ever before to implement what has long been a core principal of the social forum process: supporting existing local struggles and catalyzing new initiatives on the ground.
Sarah Sultani is an environmental educator, and her role in the organizing collective for the WSF in Montreal is as the co-facilitator of the mobilization and international relations working-group, and the facilitator of the environment committee. Katia Stuart-Gagnon has been involved in the logistics working-group and is now the communications officer for the forum. They speak with me about the World Social Forum and about the process of bringing it to Montreal.
For more information about this year’s World Social Forum, to find out how you can get involved in the organizing, or to register to attend from August 9 to 14, 2016, click here.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.